N/A: Contains spoilers from the manga...You have been warned!
Tears were flowing rapidly down her cheeks as she allowed herself this one moment of weakness. She hoped that no one would see, that no one would pity her as she slowly fell to her knees in front of the monument.
She never thought she'd see his name there...along with his father's. Killed in action...such simple words couldn't begin to describe what he meant to the village. What he meant to her...
Memories kept flashing before her closed eyes as the tears refused to stop.
She had taken a fall as a kunai scraped past her cheek and he was there to help her up...he knew she wouldn't cry, but instead scream at Shikamaru for some random reason. He always made training fun and knew how to create such strong bonds between them. They were always together...the four of them, whether it was for training or eating barbeque...or playing shogi at Shikamaru's. She hated that game. Asuma-sensei always lost. But he never once got upset about it.
Her fist clutched on the ground and she bit her lip to keep from screaming. The pain was too much to bear! She wished she could keep her calm, like Shikamaru did. Choji was probably crying too.
Ino took deep breaths, trying to calm herself. Running her fingers over his name one last time, she got up, shaking the dirt from her clothes.
She turned to leave, but the sight of someone right in front of her made her almost fall down.
Sai! How long has he been here?
Ino swallowed hard, a nagging little thought informing her that she probably looked like crap, with her eyes all red and her hair in disorder.
"Ino-san...are you allright?" he inquired with his omnipresent smile.
"Yeah!" she answered, trying to work up a smile.
"It's late...I was wondering why you're here at this hour." he told her.
I didn't want anyone to see me crying my eyes out, duh!
"I could ask you the same question." she replied. "Did you also...lose someone?" her voice was trembling.
Sai remained silent for a moment, looking at the memorial stone behind her.
"I did, but his name is not written there." he finally answered.
"Why?" Ino asked.
"Because he had no name." he replied evenly.
Ino's eyes widened disbelievingly as he continued.
"He was part of "Root" like me. We...have no names. We are given names only on certain missions."
She looked at him with something akin to pity in her azure eyes.
"So Sai is just a made up name?"
"I like it though." he answered. "I've already informed my superior about my intention to always be referred to as such."
"Oh..." she looked away from him. It was bad enough that someone saw her like this, especially someone like Sai, who didn't really understand emotions.
Before she could announce him that she had to leave, he spoke again.
"It's your sensei, isn't it?"
Don't say it, please...don't ask me about it...
Ino nodded heavily, feeling her eyes tear up again.
"You lied to me." he said softly.
She looked at him inquiringly.
"You said you're allright, but you're not." he explained.
"I should...be going." she told him, preparing to walk past him and go cry her eyes out somewhere else. Home was out of the question since the previous generation of InoShikaCho were having a get together in the memory of Asuma. She couldn't be there right now.
"Where?" came his simple question.
"Anywhere..." she answered, looking at the ground.
He looked at her for a moment, silent.
"Come." he said in a low voice.
Ino looked at him, surprised. He thought it beautiful, the contrast between the red and perfect blue in her eyes. Unlike the time he had called her pretty without meaning it, to him she really was pretty now. Because of the emotions her whole being emanated, emotions which he could not bring himself to feel.
Without waiting for her to answer, he grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the stone that brought her so much sadness. Apparently, she did not want to go home, probably some event in her late sensei's memory was being held there. It was custom.
Ino followed him reluctantly, but in a way she was thankful to escape the sad memories and what better person to help her than Sai? He was a new acquaintance and he didn't make her remember any scenes of her team and Asuma.
Sai knew exactly where he was going and he found the fastest route. Soon he and Ino were staring at the entrance to one of Konoha's bars.
"A bar?" Ino asked, disbelievingly.
And why not...she thought. That would get my mind off it for a while.
"Wanna make me drown my sorrows?" she joked as they both took a seat.
He gestured to the bartender and soon two cups of hot sake appeared in front of them.
"Perhaps I just want to get you drunk and take advantage of you." he said, looking at her seriously.
Half a cup of sake left Ino's mouth in a violent way as she started to cough.
"What?" she asked, after regaining her composure.
The usual smile took the place of his serious expression.
"I read somewhere that men sometimes talk like that to women, when alcohol is present."
Ino burst into laughs as Sai looked at her, a bit puzzled.
"You're...funny." she managed to make out between fits of laugher.
"I wasn't trying to be." he replied, still oblivious.
"That's what makes it all the more funny!" she told him, smiling.
"Is it?" he asked, appearing interested all of a sudden. "I will remember that."
"Maybe you should write it down." Ino advised, containing her laughter.
"Oh, there is no need to worry. I have a very good memory." he replied seriously.
Ino turned her head so he wouldn't see her laughing again. Really, he was such a twit when it came to anything related to emotions! But he was trying to learn and she liked that about him.
Looking at him, Ino realized his cup was already empty and he was ordering the second one.
"Careful, I don't know if I could carry you home." she joked. "I don't even know where you live for that matter so I wouldn't count on me if I were you."
"I could show you if you like." he answered calmly and she felt warmth in her cheeks, sign that she was probably getting as red as a tomato.
"Oh, no...I meant..." she gestured to the empty sake cup.
"Oh that...I can't even feel it anymore. At Root we go through all kinds of training." he told her.
She raised her eyebrows, inquiringly.
"Say you're supposed to gather information under cover. The best place to do it is a bar. And you'll attract attention if you don't drink with the person you're extracting the information from, but you can't afford to get drunk either. We...I have an extraordinary resistance to alcohol." he continued.
"I see..." she said, wondering how that kind of "training" would ensue.
Ino emptied the remainder of her cup, not wanting to stay behind. If she could describe herself in one word, it would be competitive.
The bartender brought them two more cups and she realized she felt better. And taking a closer look at Sai in the dim, almost non existent light, she thought he looked even better than Sasuke. Or maybe it was just the alcohol, but he was hot nonetheless.
"Thanks." she said softly.
"For what?" he asked, emptying his third cup.
"Making me feel better." she told him, staring on the third cup.
I did? Sai thought, puzzled.
"Hey, I have an idea!" Ino exclaimed, a bit too loud.
Sai looked at her, expectantly.
"I've never seen your jutsu, but Sakura said it was artistic. Why don't we get out of here and you can show it to me?" she asked.
She took that as a yes and prepared to pay for her drinks. A warm hand on her shoulder stopped her.
"Please don't. It's on me." he said.
She looked at him, blushing. She knew this wasn't a date or anything, but it was sure starting to look like one.
They went outside and Ino noticed with satisfaction that it was late enough for the streets to be deserted. She stopped and tugged at his arm.
"Here?" he asked, scanning the area.
"Yeah! No one's here now and I don't feel like walking anymore." she replied, realizing that she sounded like Shikamaru.
It's the sake! Damnit.
Sai took out a scroll and she took battle stance, wondering what kind of jutsu he would hit her with. Upon a closer look though, she found that the scroll was empty. He proceeded to take out a paintbrush and black paint and scribbled something onto the scroll.
"Ninpou: Chojuu Giga." he spoke, forming a seal.
Suddenly, a huge lion-like creature jumped out from the scroll and faced Ino, growling.
She looked at it, rooted to the spot as the animal scattered in little drops of ink.
"Wow." was all she
could say, agreeing with Sakura in her mind.
"It's not that impressive." he said. "But it's efficient in combat."
"Do you mind if I ask to see your jutsu? I've heard about the Yamanaka clan's secret technique, but that's as far as my knowledge goes." Sai told her.
"It's...better suited for recon that actual combat, unless I use it unison with my teammates' jutsus." Ino told him.
"Still, I would like to see it." he insisted.
She shrugged, forming the seal.
Shintenshin no jutsu!
Sai's sensed were on alert, wondering what would hit him, but to his surprise, nothing came at him, thus he didn't move.
Ino's body crumbled to the ground as she looked at the world through Sai's eyes. The alcohol must have had a greater effect on her than she thought, because she couldn't resist the temptation of touching his abdomen.
Well-built...firm...soft skin...she concluded
Another crazy though made it's way into her mind. She wondered why he had the confidence to mock the size of people's penises.
She shook her head/Sai's head, dismissing the thought.
"Kai!" Sai's voice echoed in the deserted streets.
Ino's mind connected to her body and she felt her limbs aching.
Well duh! It just hit the ground like a rock!
Sai looked at her, dumbfounded.
"What did you...just now..."
"I was in your body." she told him, realizing how weird it sounded.
His eyes widened and she thought he looked cute with that expression.
"My clan's techniques revolve around mind-control. The one I used, Shintenshin, allows me to take over your body for a short period of time." she informed him, her tone sounding somewhat proud.
"Intriguing." he commented.
She smiled genuinely.
"I should be going home now." she said and Sai noticed a sadness in her tone.
"I'll walk you." he offered and she nodded, turning around.
Sai pondered something and then, apparently deciding on it, took out his scroll and brush and doodled something on it.
Ino half-turned to the sound of brush against paper, just a see an ink kitten popping out of the scroll. It looked silly and cute at the same time, like the sort of thing a ten-year old would draw, but it hardly resembled a real cat.
Ino giggled, wondering if those lion-like creatures where the only things he could reallydraw. Nonetheless, his gesture surprised her and she touched the tiny ink creature. Surprisingly, it was solid and she took it into her arms. It even went Meow!
Ino squealed and released the tiny creature. Her eyes brightened as she looked at Sai and without warning, she hugged him tightly.
His eyes widened as he looked down at the girl glued against him and her happy smile. His arms circled around her as well, almost unconsciously as the ink kitten jumped around them.
Sai dismissed the creature with a wave of his hand and it turned into blotches of ink, splattered across the ground. He smiled as his arms tightened around Ino.
So it's the little things that make one truly happy.
A/N: He killed zah kitten...o m g XD